Tonight at 8:00pm EST the Pistons will be in New York to play against the Knicks. The Pistons are on the second night of a back to back after losing a close game to the Wizards last night, and the Knicks are on a couple of days rest following a loss to the Thunder on Thursday.
The Knicks are bad. Like really bad. Kristaps Porzingis is now the man in New York, and he is very good. He had a really good opener against the Thunder going for 31 points and 12 rebounds, but he will be under a huge offensive workload all season that he may or may not be quite ready for. He can shoot, finish, has a decent handle, and has really good athleticism for such a large man but the main worry is how consistently he is able to create his own shot. Defensively he is still learning but his combination of length and athleticism can't be taught and he can give serious problems to people.
Beyond Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr (whose Dad is an assistant for Detroit) is an overpaid, but still pretty good player. He is a good, high volume, three point shooter and while his hanle keeps him from being a great driver/finisher he has enough athleticism to do some good things inside and he competes on defense. Courtney Lee should still be a rock solid 3 and D guy even if he isn't much more than that, and Doug McDermott can get some buckets and isn't just a shooter. Enes Kanter is freaking terrible on defense but he can score in different ways and a bully on the glass. Ramon Sessions has been a decent backup most of his career but was awful last year and even at his best was a below average starter. Kyle O'Quinn is a decent backup center, Ron Baker is a white guy, Lance Thomas plays hard, Franky Smokes might not play but he is long, athletic and actually kind of fun if he does play.
The Knicks do have some offensive talent, the problem is that they likely will sport some of the, if not the, worst point guard play in the NBA this year which will hamper them. Combine that with a defense that is probably going to be almost comically bad all year and you have a recipe for a full on tank job. The only way that they scratch their way to anything respectable is if Porzingis grows up fast, Ntilikina isn't terrible (which most rookie point guards are terrible) and Tim Hardaway makes another big improvement to his game like he did last year, and even then they probably top out as a team that wins 30 some games. That said, it will be good experience for Porzingis to be the center of the offense and that is the most important thing for the Knicks this year.
Matchups to watch:
Pistons vs Energy: The Pistons are on the second night of back to back where they traveled, and the Knicks should be well rested. The Pistons are better than the Knicks, but if the Pistons look tired it could close the gap.
Reggie vs. Energy: I want to highlight Reggie Jackson here. He played (limited minutes) in a preseason back to back so I fully expect him to play, but there was real talk about him being held out of back to backs before the season. If he looks good in significant minutes tonight it would go a long ways towards building confidence in his health, for the fans and himself.
Pistons ball handlers vs Attacking: The Knicks are terrible defensively, and are particularly squishy on the inside other than Porzingis. They should attack the hoop at every opportunity and can't settle for jumpers. In particular, if there was a game for Reggie to break out, this would be it.
Pistons vs Porzingis: No matter who the Pistons play at the 4, they will be underzised and have their hands full with Porzingis. Tobias has actually played him pretty tough in the past, but it will be a chore. If the Pistons can keep him in check the Knicks will have very little chance in this game. If Porzingis gets going however...
Andre vs Foul Trouble: Andre has actually played very well in the first two games of the season, but has picked up too many dumb fouls. Thankfully he will not have to deal with any great driving guards after facing Kemba and John Wall previously, but Kanter will be physical in the post and the glass. Andre should be able to be fine, but if he isn't careful he could easily find himself in trouble again.
Pistons vs Keeping the good vibes going: With the loss last night this game suddenly is a kind of important game. With a win then last night's sting is pretty much gone, a bad loss and the Pistons will be off to a bit of a sour start.
So in conclusion...
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
The Pistons have damn near a layup line to the hoop tonight.
Andre avoids foul trouble.
Kristaps is struggling to create offense and looks a bit wiped out by the 4th quarter.
Run for the hills if:
The Pistons look gassed.
Kristaps gives the Pistons flashbacks to Anthony Davis.
Andre takes some dumb fouls again.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
Avery Bradley and Stanley Johnson dominate a stretch of the game with their defense.
Reggie Jackson scores many points.
Ish Smith bounces back and has 10+ assists without a turnover.
Pistons ride the momentum of last night to an easy win over an inferior opponent.
Pistons 117 – Knicks 93.
What do you think? Can the Pistons contain Kristaps? Can the Pistons play with energy?